Thursday, May 17

Halo 3 Beta Review (Completed)

The long awaited Halo 3 beta, after a short delay for Crackdown players, is finally out. You can almost picture the empty schools and offices across the globe as players of all ages flock to get a taste of Halo 3's multiplayer.
I'm not joking either, the number of kids I've met ingame today who were meant to be at school... well anyway.

Too tired from last night's celebrations to add in any more filler text, so let's get to the point.

My observations so far:

Not vastly different, first thing most people may notice is that it's made to appear slightly convexed outwards to simulate the feel of peering out through the Spartan helmet visor.
3 grenades types in the top left, the icons only showing up when you have grenades available, and a commonly disregarded shield bar top center.
Radar seems to have shorter range, most targets will be right on top of you before showing up. Weapon icons have been updated to make them easier to tell them apart with the new additions.

Fiddly to get used to, even if you're familiar with Halo 1 and 2. No major complaints apart from the use of the D pad being a bit akward for voice chat ingame, and the seemingly wasted X button since equipment is not deployed all that often, and the X button holds prime real estate on the controller as far as easy access is concerned.

Halo 2 looked great, so I imagine it was difficult to make the 3rd installation leaps and bounds ahead of it's predecessors. Effects are fancier, textures are sharper and everything looks a little bit more detailed. That aside, not much to comment on.

Not much to say; you move a bit slower, don't jump quite as high. Very impressed with the physics, particularly for grenade bouncing and vehicles (*cough* mongoose).
Shields seem about the same, hard to judge with the modifications to the weapons.
Health is what it was in Halo 2; the last few yards before the edge of the cliff.

Carbine rocks. Had to say it. It's been improved from Halo 2, and now has near perfect accuracy and decent rate of fire. Has more or less replaced the Battle Rifle in my books.
Battle Rifle is still great, but with it's burst fire as opposed to single shot and with reduced aiming aid across all weapons, it's less useful in long range and much better in mid-close.
Spiker also rocks. Much like the SMG, the Brute Spiker has a slightly slower projectile speed but makes up for it by quickly shredding opponents in mid range combat. In close range, it's great for smacking them to the floor with it's blade attachment, much akin to the Brute Shot. Best part is, it can be duel wielded.
Speaking of the SMG and Brute Shot, the former has had little change at all, while the latter has seen a complete make over. Forget the small bullet like grenades launched from the original Brute Shot, the new one feels and wields a lot more like a portable cannon. Damage is increased, blast radius increased, range improved and has the ever useful melee spike still intact.
Rocket Launchers have lost their homing, and have a slightly smaller blast radius. Still serves more or less the same purpose as the rocket launchers always have, but vehicles are less vulnerable as a whole.
Needler is definitely better, although that says little considering how useless it used to be. Projectiles move quicker but if you want to land your shots you'll still want to get up close. Damage on the other hand is lethal, little over half a clip will drop you and that's without duel wielding.
Human Sniper rifle has had a few changes made to it, but it's still generally the same old weapon. No more rapid firing though, as there's a short delay between each shot, forcing people to take their time aiming. Headshots also seem easier to achieve.
Beam Rifle, the counterpart to the Human Sniper, is much the same as it always was. You can rapid fire a few shots at the expense of overheating. In Halo 2 this was my sniper rifle of choice, but for some reason or other for me it's lost it's appeal in this new beta. As with the Human Sniper, headshots seem easier to achieve.
Plasma Rifle seems to have lost it's usefulness somewhat, with the slowish projectiles and the minimal damage to health still in place. Still good for the old fashioned SMG+Plasma combo though (or better yet, Spiker+Plasma).
Plasma Pistol has had a few nerfs and upgrades. It now screws up vehicle handling with an overcharged burst, but keeping it overcharged will slowly deplete it's ammo. As always, it drops shields instantly with a burst shot, but no longer seeks targets.
Assault Rifle, resurrected from Halo 1, is the new bread and butter weapon of Halo 3 it seems. Starting off with it in all match types except special weapon gametypes, it's a very average weapon. Average range, damage and small clip. It's far from useless but most people will want to trade it out as soon as possible.
Shotgun has been modified to emphasise it's role; short range and only short range. Now doing virtually no damage at all unless your target is in your face, it also has a smaller clip. I find it less useful as you'd have to sneak up on someone to avoid having them back away and mow you down while you're trying to get close enough.
Spartan Laser is a new fan favourite it seems. A railgun-esque weapon which takes a few seconds to fire, and the resulting blast is devastating. One shot kills and that's not limited to other players, I mean to vehicles too. You can force fire it without fully charging but the result isn't particularly useful. You can get off about 10 full blasts before having to dump it. Has partial zoom, although luckily we don't have to worry too much about big red bolts of death coming out of nowhere all the time, as the thing is rather large and unwieldly, emits a visible lasersight when charging and most of all is quite tricky to use effectively without time and patience spent mastering the weapon. There's also only ever one on each map.
Turret Machine Gun is quite literally the familiar Warthog/Stationary turret which can now be detached and lugged around. Great for defending key locations, but you won't want to carry it around too much due to the slowed movement restrictions and 3rd person view.
Missile Pod is similar, and carries a tracking device for anti vehicle use. Also impeding your movement, it acts much like a rapid fire rocket launcher with limited ammo and no reloads.
And... that's it for the beta weapons. That's right, no Energy Sword, and no Human Pistol. Yet.
On a side note, melee is particularly devastating, and with most weapons you're better off punching people that get close enough rather than continuing to fire at them. Momentum damage bonuses for melee attacks have been amplified.

Frag grenade is once again the staple grenade, and has had few changes made to it. One thing to note is how grenades and objects in general react differently depending on the surface they land on. For example, tossing a grenade on a metal surface will cause it to bounce, while throwing one in the river will result in it just stopping dead where it landed.
Sticky grenade, the original favourite, has had a few more changes. It has a less imposing smaller frame, so it's less noticeable when someone's trying to attach one to your face. Also launches faster, but is less likely to attach to someone unless aimed well, unlike in Halo 2 where skimming someone resulted in a stick.
Spike grenades, my new favourite grenade, require the most strategy to work. You can use them like sticky grenades to stick other players resulting in an instant kill, but their other uses are much more varied. They do not bounce at all, instead they cling to any surface it comes into contact with first, such as walls and ceilings. What's interesting though, is that the blast is cone shaped, emitting perpendicular to the attached surface. This makes it great for clearing out rooms and stopping would-be pursuers in tight passages.
All grenades can be thrown faster, but not as far. You can have 2 of each, which results in a current total of 6 grenades carried at any one time max. They seem more readily available to you on maps, and you'll rarely find yourself without grenades for long.

A brand new feature, equipment is launched using the X button, and are typically very strategic in their uses.
Bubble Shield, perhaps the most infamous addition to Halo 3, does exactly what the name implies. Dropping this creates a temporary sphere which stops all explosions and projectiles from passing in or out. Great for matchtypes like territories, and has a lot of imaginitive uses. Also often creates the cat and mouse melee situation, as anyone is still free to walk in and out of the bubble.
Power Drainer, a rather odd addition, creates a forcefield which gradually depletes shields and then explodes when it expires. The forcefield is easily visible though, so users should be wary of where to deploy it, especially since team mates are also affected.
Trip Mine is just that; a trip mine. When deployed, anyone that strays too close will trigger it and end up with their corpse/vehicle hurtling through the air. The most interesting use is perhaps how it can latch onto vehicles, great for strategic booby trapping.
Gravity Lift is a temporary portable jump pad; and strategic deployment can make bases a lot harder to defend.

Mongoose is one of the three vehicles available in the beta, and it's main use is for getting around. Very fast and manoueverable, it can also carry a passenger which can shoot for you using their equipped weapon. As I said, it's main use it getting around, as running over someone with it seems rather impossible. You're also extremely vulnerable while driving it as there is no cover for your exposed torso whatsoever.
Ghosts should be familiar, only really noticeable changes being the slowed down strafing capabilities, making you more vulnerable to grenades.
Warthogs are the same reliable 4 wheel transports that we all know and love. Only the machine gun turret appears in the beta, and little about the vehicle itself has been changed.
Interestingly, I have yet to see a destroyed vehicle. They appear once again quite invulnerable as they were in Halo 1. Need to confirm that.

Of the 3 maps found in the beta, High Ground has become my favourite (perhaps an overall favourite infact). It's an asymetric map with a base in one half and an outside area. Various entrances to the base and a strategic gate switch (remember Zanzibar?) make defending and attacking quite interesting.
Snowbound is a... well, snowy map. Joint smallest map with High Ground, it's mostly made up of a fairly bland surface level, a few protruding bases and winding tunnels connecting them down below. Will make for some interesting CTF games to be sure. Especially with all the barriers in places.
Valhalla is the largest map, and

-Matchmaking: Gametypes
Being a beta, there's little to comment on in regards to variety, because they're obviously trying to gather test results for certain new game types over other, older ones.
Notable new matchtypes include Shotguns and Snipers (a terrible matchtype if you ask me), a new version of territories with attack and defend rounds and VIP, where you protect a designated member of your team while simultaneously trying to kill the opposing team's VIP.

-Matchmaking: System
Was a bit slow at first, they seemed to have ironed out the major bugs though.
Aesthetics aside, not many differences compared to Halo 2's matchmaking.
Veto is a welcome addition, allowing players to vote off a map/gametype during matchmaking one time per round. If the majority of players succeed in the vote, another map/gametype will be selected and put directly into play (no further voting).

You need to bear in mind that this is, of course, a beta. According to the folks at Bungie everything and anything is subject to change before release.

Now that that's out of the way, let's get to what it all boils down to. It's fun. So if you haven't already, go grab a copy of Crackdown and join us.

I personally think that the X button and B buttons should be swapped around, so you push X for melee and B to drop equipment. You melee a hell of a lot more often than you use equipment, and X is more accessible and easier to press with A (jump) for those tricky QCB situations. Who agrees?

Edit: Dear god, someone's made it to the rank of General during the beta.
Speaking of which, with one day left, the beta is about to draw to a close. Hope you guys had fun. I know I did.
Now to wait for the full release in September.